TC Electronic Clarity X by Barish
I got to install and configure this unit in a 5.1 mixing room I had put together for a post-production facility in Istanbul, Turkey.
For starters, this machine has no power switch! You pay 5000-odd dollars to have a device that you have to crawl behind the rack and unplug the IEC cable from the mains to shut down.
Secondly, if you need to use headphones, you need another 1,5 metres of headphone lead in order to make the cans to your ears, because the headphone output is also in the back. Congratulations, Einstein!
Thirdly, you buy the machine as a surround monitoring controller but it comes as a barebone stereo controller as default, and you have to cough up an extra $750 or something for the speaker EQ, another thousand for 5.1/7.1 capability, and another thousand or so for the privilege of using the AES/EBU channels 9-16 that are already there anyway.
Until then, what you have is a glorified remote on/off switch and a volume knob for your speakers, for some five thousand dollars, or whatever it is going for in your territory. Which is... Rubbish.
The unit is configured through the ubiquitous "Icon" software of TC Electronic, which you also use for other top TC products like System 6000 etc.
The unit comes with a calibrated omni test mic, which works with the calibration wizard seamlessly, which is very nice. You set up four different sweet spots and no matter where your speakers are in the room, it calibrates the speaker delays to get you going in your surround mix in no time.
Unfortunately the optional speaker EQ is not a part of the speaker setup and calibration wizard so you need to use a third party analyzer in order to really make a use of it.
The presets are very well thought out. You just recall them and immediately get on with modifying them to your requirements or liking, which is very easy once you read the effing manual thoroughly.
The sonic quality of the unit is superb. I have not noticed any loss or noise or artifacts that the unit introduced into the signal at all. I took the 25 pin AES/EBU out of the Avid I/O straight into the Clarity X's AES/EBU inputs with a pair of 25-pin to XLR Breakout cables, and using the same cables' output XLRs, distributed the signals digitally to Genelec 7030 and 8130 speakers from the Clarity X's AES/EBU outputs.
I have not used the analog audio outputs of the Clarity, since the Genelec 7030 sub would not accept anything other than AES/EBU digital, so I can't comment at this stage how the analog outs fare in terms of linearity and S/N ratio. If I get to use them in the future, I'll drop by and update accordingly.
The ethernet Remote is very nice and neat. The user-configurable F keys allow different monitoring options at the users behest, while a fixed Ref button drops the auditioning volume to a calibrated standard where you can check what's going on in your mix at that reference level wherever you are, and an Alt button takes the sound to another alternative speaker setup, and an attenuator "say it again?" button which drops down the overall volume by 20dB or so in order to let you hear the client or colleague better when they try to talk to you.
The ethernet connection to the network, however, is a bitch, because they seem to have inverted the ethernet output to eliminate the need for a crossed Cat5 cable, which is fine if you are going to connect the machine directly to the computer, BUT, if you are planning to connect it to the existing network hub, then you'll need a crossed cable now, which is against ALL the conventions you've known and been used to about networking. I don't understand why they tried to reinvent the wheel in there. Just stick to the standard, for crying out loud. You're not making it easier by deviating?!
So, overall, it is a great product, which will be probably better in the second edition. In my opinion, all the stuff that they try to sell you extra about this unit, they should be a standard feature. Otherwise, what's the bloody point, innit?